ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Anchorage Assembly has passed a resolution asking the mayor to move more aggressively to clear and clean up the city’s homeless encampments.
The board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the resolution calling for Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s administration to immediately reduce the large camps that have been set up on municipal property.
The vote followed complaints from officials and residents that the camps have grown extensively since emergency health orders went into effect in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The resolution sponsored by Assembly members Meg Zaletel, Chris Constant and Crystal Kennedy said outreach services should also be offered to the homeless living in the camps and that “No Camping” signs should be posted at one camp that has had extensive problems.
Some residents near the camps said there has been increased drug use, litter, violence, and vandalism.
While many Anchorage residents heed public health emergency orders related to COVID-19, the resolution noted that many of those in the camps do not practice adequate hygiene or social distancing.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
Chris Schutte, Anchorage economic and community development director, said camps along Chester Creek pose a particular public safety concern due to wildfire risks as Alaska moves into drier, warmer months.
The city plans to hire 20 parks and recreation employees to begin the first phase of camp abatement May 11, with a second phase expected to start in June.
“If we can do it faster, we certainly will,” Schutte said.